Frequently Asked Questions
What is Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC)?
- PWSAC is a private nonprofit aquaculture association established to produce hatchery-born, ocean-raised wild salmon for the commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries in the Prince William Sound/Copper River Region. Our vision is to ensure the long-term sustainability of Alaska’s fish resources. Alaska, with a pristine and unpolluted environment and more fish than people, is uniquely suited to wild salmon.
What is the difference between “ocean ranching” and “fish farming”?
- Unlike fish farming where fish are penned and fed until market size, ocean ranched salmon are only in the hatchery until they reach the fry stage (a very short portion of their lifespan). Salmon need pure fresh water at the beginning and ends of their lives. The hatchery provides a controlled environment that helps them through a fragile part of their life cycle.
What are the benefits of responsible aquaculture practices, as demonstrated by PWSAC’s programs?
- Increase abundance of salmon
- Protected wild salmon stocks
- Stabilizes commercial, sport, personal use, and subsistence fishing
- A healthy and safe way to feed the world
- Supports an sustains family fishing operations
- Ecologically sustainable
What is the economic impact of PWSAC?
- The five hatcheries operated by PWSAC create thousands of seasonal jobs for crewmembers and processors and generate millions of pink, chum, coho, sockeye and Chinook salmon.
- Since 2006, PWSAC has produced one in four of Alaska’s commercially caught pink salmon.
- Large harvests of PWSAC pinks have provided the industry with the volume and economies of scale needed to fulfill demand.
- The first wholesale value of PWSAC salmon is approaching $100 million annually.
- The program has many social and economic benefits and the lowest default rate of any loan in the state.
How is PWSAC funded?
- Alaska statutes provide that aquaculture associations may only be nonprofit. By design, the hatcheries are allowed to recover operating and capital expenses, costs for research and development, and expansion of the production system, including wild stock rehabilitation work.
- PNP hatcheries may harvest and sell a portion of their returning adult salmon for cost recovery. At PWSAC, the management policy is to define target revenue goals for each site to meet their annual budget needs.
- Annual Management Plans stating how many fish will be harvested to meet those revenue goals are submitted to the Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game for approval.
- Salmon harvested by the hatcheries for sales are caught in the hatchery terminal areas by licensing a portion of the returning salmon for a fee to seafood processors who in turn catch and sell the fish. The live fish are valuable to the processors because of their absolute freshness and dependable availability.
- This revenue source is available only to those PNPs that are classified as regional aquaculture associations. By state law, salmon permit holders in their regional area can vote in an voluntary enhancement tax in whole number increments up to 30%. The tax is levied on the gross income from salmon deliveries in the region. The tax is collected by the processors, submitted to the Department of Revenue, allocated to the Department of Commerce by legislative action, and then disbursed to the regional aquaculture associations on an annual basis in July of each year.
Revolving Loan Funds:
- Aquaculture associations are eligible to apply for loans from the Alaska Fisheries Enhancement Revolving Loan Fund, which can provide funds for capital construction and start-up operations. PWSAC has made use of these loans primarily for hatchery construction.
- The world’s largest aquaculture program is in Japan. Russia & Alaska have the second largest programs.
- Much work and research had been done in other countries on aquaculture. Alaska as a young state was able to benefit from such research. With an abundace of pristine habitat, and more fish than people, it’s an environment uniquely suited to salmon.
How have consumer trends influenced the demand for Wild Pink Salmon?
- During the late 1990s and early 2000s, an influx of imported farmed salmon and growing inventories of canned salmon drove down prices for pink salmon.
- The industry has rebounded by creating new products, balancing supply and demand of existing products, and capitalizing on favorable market conditions.
- PWSAC is a critical supplier of Alaska pink salmon. During the past five years, Prince William Sound has produced 43 percent of the statewide pink salmon harvest.
- The pink salmon shift from canned to frozen production had a major impact on the wholesale value of pink salmon products, which in turn increased the price for pinks by 37 percent to $1.27 per pound.
- The increased volume of pink salmon harvested and canned from Prince William Sound enabled other regions to efficiently focus on frozen production.
- More health-conscious consumers are turning to wild salmon to meet their needs for alternative sources of protein.
- New consumers have entered the market, due to widely available and inexpensive farmed salmon, driving up demand for all sources, including Alaska wild caught salmon.
- Consumers are more aware of the environmental impact of their spending choices – the state’s emphasis on responsible and sustainable resource management satisfies these requirements.
- The recession increased demand for budget-friendly salmon choices. Over 50 new value-added products featuring pink salmon, such as salmon burgers, helped fill the void.
- The health and affordability of wild pink salmon and the importance of Omega-3 is becoming more important to educated consumers.
- Europe, with its strict sustainability requirements, has embraced Prince William Sound pinks.
What brands of canned wild Alaska salmon do you recommend?
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